I was recently reprimanded by one of my viewers (Herr Doktor Kev!) for letting my blog descend into too many introspective beer reviews, with not enough brewing info, and perhaps that’s true. So here is some news from the coalface of my recent brewing toil, a couple of new techniques that I tried out at the weekend.
New techniques, well, new to me anyway; but why? Well I love all sorts of beers, but two types stand out. The first is the big Trappist style dark rummy beers, beers like Rochefort 10 that I have eulogised elsewhere. The second beer that I just want to come back to all the time is the ever popular big American IPA. Beers from Dogfish Head, Stone, Sierra Nevada, and some of my recent favourites, a cedar aged IPA from Cigar City, Odell’s IPA which I thought was my favourite until I recently tasted Anderson Valley “Hop Ottin”, and now I’m not so sure.
But these last three have something in common which my own brews have been missing. I have managed to get the big aromatic juicy hop character that I love, like in one of my favourite of my own recent beers Randy Williams, but what eluded me was a character that they share in body. It is important to balance hoppy beers with enough malt character so that you don’t just get a thin and bitter beer. What these three lovely IPAs have is a sort of toffee sweetness. It’s not just caramel of the type that some English beers have, but real toffee, like one of those chewy sweets was dissolved in it. I have read that this sort of flavour can be caused by direct fired kettles that have hot patches near the bottom that scorch some of the wort on the way in, caramelising it and causing the lovely toffee flavour, but my boil kettle is electric, what to do? The first of my two techniques then, is an attempt to get this effect, and it involves taking a certain
amount of the early (and thus strongest and most sugary) wort from the mash tun, and boiling it vigorously in order to reduce, concentrate and caramelise it. I took 3L of wort and set the largest gas ring to full, and in the space of about 30 minutes I reduced it to 1L on the stovetop. I waited and added it back in to the kettle just before the end of the boil in the hope of keeping some of the flavour. I tasted a little, and it was very concentrated, but definitely tasted of toffee. It’s all fermenting now so I live in hope.
The second technique is a technique commonly used by commercial brewers , especially in America, and it’s called whirlpooling. I was inspired to try it out by the homebrew guru Jamil Zainasheff, on his Mr. Malty page. Basically it is a way of chilling the boiled wort as quickly as possible, with as much wort movement as possible so as to minimise the risk of too much hop acid isomerisation, which would make the hop oil less aromatic but rather contributing more bitterness. I have worried lately that my late hop additions, such as at 5 minutes and even at the knockout have just failed to live up to expectations when I come to taste the finished product. I want the aroma to jump out and grab you like it does in those American beers I mentioned.
The basic method involves chilling the wort via an immersion chiller as I have always done, whereby cold tap water is run through a copper coil that acts as a basic heat exchanger, heating up as it passes through the hot wort and transferring the heat from the wort to the running water, thus cooling the wort. On top of that for added cooling speed and efficiency the wort is transferred from the tap back in to the top of the kettle via a small (but mighty) 12v pump, available from this very helpful gentleman. These small pumps are
cheap, food grade, and heat tolerant. The benefit to hop aroma is explained by Jamil on his site
With a counter flow or plate chiller, you let the bulk of the wort sit at near boiling temperatures while you chill a small amount. Sitting at near boiling will continue to isomerize the hop acids and drive off the volatile oils that good hop aroma and flavor depend upon. A number of folks have noticed that hop aroma decreases on switching from an immersion chiller to a counter flow This is the reason. By contrast the whirlpool immersion chiller knocks enough heat off of the entire wort in the first minute or two to retain that beautiful hop character. If you’re going to use a counter flow or plate chiller, better buy yourself a hopback.
So those two techniques are my latest attempt to brew a big American IPA with the beautiful hop aroma tempered by toffee sweetness that I love so well. The fermenter smells incredible, but only time will tell whether the difference is noticeable. For anyone who is interested, here is the recipe I brewed. I went with Columbus, a big, spicy aromatic hop, paired with Cascade for citrus sweetness. I loosely based it on brew365’s recipe for the aforementioned “Hop Ottin”
“Columbus IPA” : 30L : OG 1.073 : 7% ABV : 74 IBU : 13 SRM
Malts: 7KG Pale Malt, 1KG Munich Malt, 1KG Crystal Malt (55L), 300G Wheat Malt
Hops: 60 mins: 35G Magnum, 20 mins: 30G Columbus, 40G Cascade, 10 Mins: 40G Cascade, 5 Mins: 35G Columbus, Whirlpool: 35G Columbus, Dry Hop: 70G Cascade
Yeast: Wyeast West Yorkshire
Other Notes: Mash at 66c for 60 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes. First 3L of wort runoff was vigorously reduced on the stovetop to 1L and re-added just before the knockout. Whirlpool during immersion coil wort chilling.